The independent report into the murky world of amateur boxing and in particular the Rio 2016 Olympic tournament was damning and the outrage was understandable — but the questions hanging in the air are, will it make any difference in the long term and what will stop what was going on in the past with referees and judges not happening again?
The only way I can see that amateur boxing is not dragged back into the gutter is to have an independent body constantly overseeing the working of the governing body. Just look at the boxing tournament at the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee felt they had to run it after what happened in Rio in 2016 and I thought overall the judging and refereeing was very fair — just what you would expect.
If boxing is to remain in the Olympics it would come as no surprise to me if the IOC insisted on the same set-up come Paris in 2024. Apart from that, in light of the report, I think AIBA needs to be monitored, at least for a number of years to make sure that the right people are in place, making the right decisions so never again are boxers having their dreams crushed by skulduggery.
Being honest, the findings in the report about how officials were signalling to each other and the way the referees were selected to make sure results went a certain way did not come as a shock to me. People often point to professional boxing for being tarnished with corruption but I’ve been involved in boxing for a long time and I’ve seen some dreadful decisions in amateur boxing and now it has been exposed to the world.
All those involved in what went on in Rio and also in the qualifying tournaments, according to the report, should be hanging their heads in shame.
Take Joe Joyce, whose final was one of the contests highlighted as under suspicion, if he had come home with a gold medal his signing on fee for going pro would have been 10 times what he got and all the other benefits of being an Olympic super-heavyweight champion would have rolled his way. But someone decided he was not going to win. It makes me sick.
Mick Conlan also knows that he should have been in the semi-finals and guaranteed at least a bronze but was set up to lose his quarter-final with Vladimir Nikitin. Those are only two examples but how many more boxers had their Olympic dream ruined earlier in the tournament or even in qualifiers? Mick has gone on to make good money as a professional because Bob Arum got behind him after his outburst but many boxers go into obscurity after years of working towards a lifelong dream only to have it ripped away.
It’s not just at Olympic level that I’ve seen this going on, there have been multi nations I’ve been at and tournaments across this island when I’ve been left scratching my head at who has got the nod. Everyone knows there are rivalries between clubs and coaches and it’s the boxers who end up suffering.
I competed in the Ahmet Comert Cup in Turkey in 2008 and faced Turkish featherweight Cetin Ozdemir in the final. I battered him from start to finish and somehow they came up with a score of 1-0 on the computer in my favour. I got the feeling I was very fortunate to get the decision.
What I find so sad about the whole disgraceful set-up within AIBA over many years leading up to Rio is that many of the officials named would have been involved in the sport in their local clubs having joined for the right reasons.
They have to live the rest of their lives knowing what they were involved in, ruining the sporting careers of those who gave everything believing they were being given a fair chance of achieving their dreams. Dear knows how some of those results impacted on boxers who knew they were cheated because not everyone goes on to have a great pro career to somehow make up for what happened — such as Roy Jones who was robbed of gold in the Seoul Olympics.
Sadly, whether it’s at home or on the international stage, some officials believe they’re more important than the boxers — and that’s a problem that will always be hard to solve.
Donegal middleweight Jason Quigley has been handed the chance he has always craved when he challenges Demetrius Andrade for the WBO world title on November 19.
Quigley was a brilliant amateur but hasn’t lived up to the high expectations whenever he turned professional — and he will go into this fight as the underdog. So, for once in his professional career there will be no pressure and that may just help him turn in his best performance so far.
Quigley’s development is a reminder to everyone that professional boxing and amateur boxing are two different sports and it doesn’t follow that a great amateur can easily transition into a top pro.
Win or lose, Quigley can do himself a big favour by giving Andrade the hardest fight of his career so far.
Heavyweight Hughie Fury has a big night on Saturday when he faces Christian Hammer on Sky television.
Hughie deserves credit because he’s a guy who quietly goes about his business and, despite a few setbacks, he is never afraid to take on some tough opponents. Hammer will be a good test for him.
Also, I’ve noticed a change in him because before he was never the most exciting to watch but now Hughie seems to be showing a bit more spite in his work and he will hopefully shows that again against Hammer.
I want to give a special shout-out to Darren O’Neill who came back from a four-year lay-off to win an Irish senior title at the age of 36.
Darren and I got on very well when we were in the Irish squad together. He was the No.2 to Darren Sutherland and Kenny Egan, and I was seen as the No.2 to David Oliver Joyce, but we travelled with Irish team everywhere.
Now the London 2012 Olympian is the oldest Irish senior champion in history. The big Kilkenny man did it in style when he claimed the cruiserweight title with a unanimous points win over Faolain Rahill.
Congratulations also to John Paul Hale of the Star club and Caitlin Fryers of Immaculata on their Irish success.